The last times the Bruins faced off against their Pacific Northwest conference foes, they failed to tally a goal through 180 minutes of play.
Against both Oregon State (5-5-1, 2-2-1 Pac-12) and now-No. 1 Washington(12-1-0, 5-0-0) in September, UCLA men’s soccer (5-6-2, 1-3-1) was outscored 7-0 over both games, sticking the Bruins with an 0-2 start to conference play.
“We know what we did wrong in the first games,” said junior midfielder Marcony Pimentel. “(Washington) plays a similar style as Stanford, and we lost (against Stanford), but I think we did a good job.”
UCLA fell 1-0 to Stanford on Oct. 10, after conceding a goal in the final 10 minutes. Since the defeat, the Bruins haven’t picked up a win, having allowed seven total goals over the two games.
On Thursday, UCLA will face off against Washington – which boasts both the most potent offense and stingy defense in the Pac-12. Through the first half of conference play, the Huskies have scored 12 goals while only conceding two.
“We’re excited to play everyone a second time and we get to rectify a couple of performances,” said coach Ryan Jorden. “I feel like we’ve got a good understanding of what to expect in each of the games.”
The Bruins lay claim to the second-worst defense in the conference, having allowed 13 goals in five conference games and 30 total goals across their 13 regular-season games.
Meanwhile, Washington has tallied shutouts in all but four of its regular-season matches, never allowing more than three scores in a single contest. When the Bruins saw the Huskies in Washington for their first meeting, UCLA managed to only tally four shots – all which came in the second half.
Junior forward Milan Iloski, who has posted 44 shots for the season, was held to zero attempts in that game.
“I’ve scored a lot of goals, so I get attention because of that,” Iloski said. “I’ve had that attention before and it’s just about finding the right spaces. They can’t follow me everywhere so I can have a big impact on the game despite being marked for most of it.”
While Iloski leads the Bruins in goals scored with 15, only one other Bruin – Pimentel – has tallied more than one. Pimentel scored his second goal of the season in UCLA’s 4-1 loss to San Diego Oct. 17.
Eleven different players have scored for the Huskies, with midfielders Lukas Meek and Blake Bodily sitting at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in Pac-12 scoring.
UCLA will also face off against Oregon State on Sunday after losing to the Beavers 2-0 on Sept. 19 in Corvallis, Oregon. Midfielder Joel Walker leads the team with five goals, with one of those scores coming in the second minute of play against the Bruins.
The Bruins have five regular-season matches left to play, and UCLA will need to win three of those to have a shot at making the NCAA tournament, as teams must record a winning percentage of at least .500 to be considered for an at-large bid.
“We can’t have any off games,” Iloski said. “We’ve had really great games and really bad games this year and we need to cancel out the bad games. We have to realize the situation we’re in and we put ourselves in a hole having so many poor performances, but I think the group can do it.”